Friday, March 12, 2010

Description, description, description

So a short post, just because I’ve already written 6 pages today on my novel.  This may not seem like a lot, but when you are a stay-at-home mom of a 2 1/2 year old, time and energy are significantly reduced.  I was thinking about my last post and the balance between dialogue and description.  Specifically, what makes for good description.

Description helps the reader to understand and imagine the writer’s world.  It creates a sense of character and place.  For me, as a reader, I sometimes find descriptive passages too tedious–both in classics and in current literature/writing.  Sometimes I just want to “get to the good part” and it seems as though description impedes this.  This can be the downfall of being overly descriptive–it serves no purpose for the plot or characters and actually detracts from them.

When I think about writers who utilize description well, Sandra Cisneros and William Carlos Williams come to mind.  Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street is striking for its vivid, indeed poetic, descriptions.  Through a series of linked vignettes, Cisneros paints characters with precise, vivid language.  The bittersweetness of their stories leaves a tangible ache in your bones.  Williams does the some in his poems.  Again, it is the precision of language, sparse yet sharp and vivid, that leaves the reader with indelible images.

Here’s to concise, vivid descriptions.

If you haven’t already read either of these writers, go to your nearest library.  You’re in for a treat.


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